Robert Hamilton Russell (1860-1933) was one of the founders of the College and its first censor-in-chief. He was a farmer's son, born at Chartham near Farningham in Kent. He received his medical training at King's College Hospital, where in 1883-1884 he became the last house surgeon to serve under Sir Joseph Lister. After several years in a number of hospitals in England and on the continent, he gained his Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) in 1889, and migrated to Australia for health reasons.

On arriving in Melbourne he set up practice in Hawthorn, but met with little success. However, he did make the acquaintance of a promising young pianist called Percy Grainger. In 1891 he applied for the position of medical superintendent at a country hospital. The hospital committee refused to believe that a man with such qualifications would be interested in such a rustic posting, unless of course he had a problem with alcohol, and accordingly turned him down.

Success did come in 1892, when he was appointed to the surgical staff of the Children's Hospital. His musical talents, which were considerable, had made him known to a number of influential personalities on the Women's Committee, and he also had the support of Dr A. Jeffries Wood, one of the notable physicians on the staff. During his time at the Children's Hospital, Russell began his important work on the aetiology and treatment of inguinal hernia.

In 1901 he was appointed to the surgical staff of the Alfred Hospital. Here he did the work for which he is best remembered, on the treatment of fractures, particularly of the long bones. He devised a simple but ingenious method of traction for fractures of the femur. He remained an honorary surgeon to the Alfred Hospital until 1920. He then returned to the Children's Hospital as honorary consultant, and joined the Melbourne Hospital as consultant of fractures.

He was President of the Medical Society of Victoria in 1903, and in 1920 he convened the Surgical Association of Melbourne. He was one of the signatories to the "Foundation Letter" of 19 November 1925, and contributed greatly to the foundation of the College by convincing the Surgical Association of Melbourne to disband in favour of the new organisation.

He was elected to the original Council of the College of Surgeons of Australasia. He was appointed the first Director-General, then Censor-in-Chief, of the College, retaining this position until his death. On 30 April 1933 he died of injuries received when his car collided with a centre-road lamp post. Russell thus has claim to being the College's earliest road trauma victim.

The lecture was founded by the College in 1935 to perpetuate his memory.


  • The name of the lecture shall be The Hamilton Russell Memorial Lecture.
  • The object of the lectureship is to perpetuate the memory of the first Censor-in-Chief of the College, the late Robert Hamilton Russell.
  • The lecture shall be given at such places and at such intervals as the Council may from time to time determine.
  • The choice of the lecturer and subject shall be made by the Council, but the Council may delegate its right of selection of the subject to the lecturer. So far as may be possible, the lecturer shall give an address on some subject to which reference has been made in the published writings of the late Robert Hamilton Russell.
  • The award shall take the form of a bronze medal.

Hamilton Russell Lecturers

2021 - Professor Elizabeth Molloy - The role of Intellectual Candour in disrupting educational rituals in the operating theatre
2019 - Professor Oscar Traynor - How should we train the surgeons of tomorrow?
2018 - Associate Professor Jason Frank - Medical education - What really matters
2017 - Professor Debra Nestel - Learning in the operating theatre : an educationalist perspective

2016 - Professor Jonathon Beard - A concise guide to the selection, maintenance and recycling of surgeons
2015 - Professor Anthony Gallagher - Surgical simulation VR to OR
2014 - Associate Professor Carol-Anne Moulton
2013 - Anthony Hardy - Science and charity
2011 - Professor Ian Harris - Surgery as placebo
2010 - Professor Allan Skirving - In praise of surgery
2009 - David McNicol - Tomorrow's Another Day. But It Isn't - Tomorrow Was Created Yesterday, You See
2008 - Professor John Wong - Developments that Change Practice
2007 - Professor A Keith Jeffery - Of Strings and Splints and Wars and Wounds
2005 - A.W. Beasley - Cook as a Scientist - An Appraisal
2004 - S.P. Chow - The Development of Hand Surgery in the Asia-Pacific Region, including Australasia
2003 - D.G. Macleish - Surgical Business et nova et vetera
2002 - J. Kirkup - Fracture Care of Friend and Foe during World War I
2000 - R. Strong - Traveller There is no Path, a Path is Made by Walking
1999 - R. Nicholson - A Surgical Retrospect
1998 - Sir David Carter - Cancer Surgery and the Millennium
1996 - B.J. Dooley - For Better or for Worse
1995 - M. De Bakey - Perspectives in Surgical Technology
1991 - C. McC. Evarts - Leaders and Leadership
1990 - S.A. Wells - The Development of a Surgical Research Programme
1989 - C.S. Sledge - Evolution of Hip Joint Design: Hip Replacement
1987 - D.C. Sabiston - The Making of a Surgeon
1984 - F. Ortiz Monasterio - Four Hundred Years of Wound Healing
1983 - A.M. Tile - The Evolution of Fracture Treatment since Hamilton Russell
1979 - A.W. Beasley - Preserved through the Medium: Art and the History of Orthopaedics
1974 - R.A. Chase - The Variety of Methods for Primary and Secondary Reconstruction of the Thumb
1963 - R.S. Lawson - Forty Years On
1952 - F.C. Courtice - Pulmonary Oedema. Clinical Implications of Animal Experiments
1947 - Sir Heneage Ogilvie - The Place of Surgery in the Treatment of Peptic Ulcer
1937 - Sir C. Stanton Hicks - The Physiology of Acute Circulatory Failure due to Haemorrhage and Shock
1935 - E.W. Hey Groves - The Romance of Surgery